WD Poetic Form Challenge: Tanka

I know it’s crazy to have a challenge in the middle of a challenge, but that’s how I roll sometimes. Why not have a challenge in which the winning poet would be featured in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine? Why not, indeed.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, the challenge is to write a tanka, which is a Japanese form poem closely related to haiku. The tanka is a 5-line poem that generally contains 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second, 5 syllables in the third, 7 syllables in the fourth, and 7 syllables in the fifth, or:


Titles are not required. Neither are rhymes. As with haiku, images are welcome, but overall the rules are much more relaxed.

To participate, write your tanka and paste them in the comments below. You may enter as many tanka as you wish, though they should be previously unpublished (and no, I don’t count your blog or private forums as published if you don’t). After the deadline passes, I’ll gather up the tanka in the comments and go through them to pick a winner.

The deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Sunday (4/15/12). So you don’t have much time. Of course, the good news is that you only need to write 31 syllables per tanka.

Have fun! And leave any questions in the comments below.


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400 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Tanka

  1. Michael Grove

    Orange and purple swirls
    painted on cloudlike canvas
    calling out to you
    to drift away in silence
    and relax your mind and soul.

    by Michael Grove

  2. tamyka

    Sometimes all it takes
    to make ev’rything better
    is a simple smile.
    One kind gesture of friendship
    can set the world right again.


    In this dark silence
    I am filled with longing grief,
    aching for your touch,
    hoping that you may return
    and take me into the light.


    You look up at me
    with big, brown eyes full of love.
    You will defend me
    against any threat that dares
    to separate us… my dog.


    As you speak to me,
    I roll my eyes in disgust
    and I shake my head.
    You do not understand me,
    so your words are empty sounds.


    So the flame burns on
    while their dreams are left to rot
    beneath the soiled feet
    of men who perform their roles
    in solemn silence, like death.


    In this tanka form,
    which has been around a while,
    unbeknownst to me,
    I have written some new poems.
    Do my readers enjoy them?

    1. alotus_poetry

      I love your second one best, “In this dark silence.” A tanka response to “In the dark silence”: 🙂

      early dawn
      how sunlight is held
      inside a dewdrop
      once again my dreams of you
      spill onto your cold pillow

  3. Judyhampson

    Andre Aciman
    Inspiring by paradox
    Yearning for his home
    While unstable nostalgia
    Recreates memories

    Cluttered window pane
    Jammed with family photos
    Which is a better view?
    Shining glassy perspectives
    Or multiple memories?

  4. cstewart

    Up and Down II, (Tanka poem)

    Bachelor buttons
    Masked the string strap that held
    Them against the wind,
    Slashing at their confinement,
    Bubbling balloons flew free.

  5. cam45237


    Have you forgotten
    There’s a big black wolf inside?
    I see the rabbit,
    Desperate, scrabbling to escape
    Through the pupils of your eyes.

  6. Barriesaxxy

    Sunlight floods through leaves,
    painting shadows on the grass.
    They dance on our skin.
    We try to lace our fingers
    through them, but they skip away

  7. stop_stopping

    soon to be extinct

    Envelope creases
    cross more kitchen secrets than:
    mother’s worn cookbook,
    the crippled spoon on the shelf,
    the whisk, the soup bowl, the dish.

    Envelope creases
    cross more dirty secrets than:
    a taxis backseat,
    the air muddled with prayer,
    the old bartender downtown.

    Envelope creases
    cross more parenting secrets
    than: the unwilling
    daughter-in-law, a naughty
    child, the breastfeeding mother.

    Envelope creases
    cross more aging secrets than:
    the woman upstairs,
    the dying grandmother, the
    aged oak at home in the woods.

  8. Barriesaxxy

    Moon harmonizes
    with Thunderclap singing and
    Wind glides through feathers,
    rustling colors of Rain as
    optimistic owls fly

    Note: I do pronounce owls with one syllable

          1. Linda.H

            Ironically, I am reading this with my morning coffee and the birds are singing their song to me.

            Lovely responding tanka, alotus_poetry.

  9. Michael Grove

    Breezes whispering
    throughout the massive oak trees
    share horror stories
    of boys with sharpened jackknives
    and girls with yellow ribbons.

    by Michael Grove

  10. Michael Grove

    He closed all the doors
    and opened up the windows.
    A cool breeze entered
    the room and disrupted all
    that had been neat and tidy.

    by Michael Grove

  11. alotus_poetry

    a faint rainbow
    through the heavy clouds
    along this car ride
    the magic-8 ball says
    “It will get worse”


    the many hours
    of shying away from
    your hospital room
    when I finally bathe you,
    your wounds become my own


    the aftertaste of rain
    as I let you go
    in my backyard creek
    my paper swan falls in
    line after the ducklings


    nothing more to say
    about the breakup
    between us
    pine falling
    into your footsteps


    my sense of home
    on the driveway
    still so many stars that
    haven’t led me back to you


    in the pool
    so many shadows
    of ourselves we have yet
    to find a psychiatric cure

  12. dandelionwine


    I would trace each line
    back to its source, sweet tender
    roots grounding the tree
    of your page, leafy soft breeze
    swaying the words of your pen.

  13. dandelionwine

    Fielding Highland Cows

    Bellowing blue sky
    through hot leathered bovine lungs,
    their hard heavy hooves
    hollow red earth, pound in place,
    dare us to take one more step.

  14. Kit Cooley

    Ack! The comma at the end of line 4 disappeared (like magic! Ha!). So again:

    Croak of a small frog,
    the mountain had not heard yet
    this spring. Mud deep, you
    bide the cold time; like magic,
    pop up in pond, singing spring.

  15. Mustang Sal

    I have two tankas.

    Mallards make splashy
    touchdown on thawed waterway.
    Now it’s official.
    Winter has cleared for take-off.
    Spring circles low for landing.

    In May, flowers sprout
    off garden catalog page
    into prepared beds
    as sight words skip off primers
    for planting in first grade heads.

  16. CLShaffer

    A man goes back for
    his ringing phone. Speeding to
    make up time, he sends
    you further than work. Mid-air
    you leave person, become corpse.

    NOTE: The words “person” and “corpse” in the last line should be italicized.

  17. Maurie

    birdsong alarm trills
    sun shuffles through tall pines
    grab coffee and pen
    abuse not such occasion
    creativity aroused

    Truly enjoying this month of creativity. Thank you, Robert!

  18. Kendall A. Bell

    Re-posting this, since the first draft actually had six lines instead of five. So here it is again, only…with the right amount of lines.

    Absent daughter

    A box downstairs holds
    a framed picture, a sun and
    moon with eyes closed, the
    words “sleep precious baby, sleep”,
    it was to hang in your room.


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